The two of us leaned up against the outside of a colorfully painted building, one foot on the sidewalk, the other raised and pressing flat against the brick wall – a typical guy pose. We were on a Chicago city street, which were it not for the patrolling police cars that had “Chicago Police” stenciled on their doors, could have passed for a street in Mexico City, Guadalajara or Tijuana. Everything was in Spanish. Everything was Mexican.
My friend and I were chatting amicably in Spanish, and before long, a couple more guys joined the conversation. Within a few minutes there were 6 or 7 of us talking. I was sharing about TEAM’s ranch in La Paz, Mexico, that uses horse ministry among other programs to reach its community. Some of the guys listening were from the Nueva Vida church in Lawndale, and some of the guys were unchurched friends, but all were interested in hearing my stories and descriptions of the really cool ministry at TEAM’s ranch south of the border.
Within seconds, I had a group of interested volunteers who were easily seeing themselves ministering as short-term missionaries at the ranch. They wanted to help build fences, shoe horses, lead trail rides, do ranch plumbing and help with some Bible classes for kids in a nearby town. They were all excited about all the possible ways to serve the poor community around the ranch. But then my friend, the Nueva Vida pastor, pointed to a man in the group and said, “You can’t go because you don’t have a green card, and you’ll never get back to the States.” To the next man, the pastor said, “You are already illegal here. Don’t you think the ‘migra’ [immigration enforcement and border patrol workers] will catch you coming back across the border?”
The men fell silent as the reality of their situation set in. This trip could never happen. The interest to serve was there, but so was the sad circumstance of some of the men’s unresolved immigration statuses.
Like so many others in the United States, these friendly, outgoing, personable and warm Mexicans are caught in a limbo of uncertainty. The cold, hard reality is that being an immigrant in the US, legal or not, is not often easy. As thousands of Latinos face immigration issues, struggle to provide for their families, and establish a life away from their home country in the United States, the only certain thing we can offer them is the hope and love of Jesus. Whatever their situation is, they need to cling to that Rock of ages, that shelter in a time of storm, that unchanging Savior. Introducing Hispanic immigrants to Jesus is what we need and want to do in urban America.
-Written by Steve Dresselhaus, TEAM Senior Director of Latin America
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